Two novel myoviruses from the north of Iraq reveal insights into Clostridium difficile phage diversity and biology

Bacteriophages (phages) are increasingly being explored as therapeutic agents to combat bacterial diseases, including Clostridium difficile infections. Therapeutic phages need to be able to efficiently target and kill a wide range of clinically relevant strains. While many phage groups have yet to be investigated in detail, those with new and useful properties can potentially be identified when phages from newly studied geographies are characterised. Here, we report the isolation of C. difficile phages from soil samples from the north of Iraq. Two myoviruses, CDKM15 and CDKM9, were selected for detailed sequence analysis on the basis of their broad and potentially useful host range. CDKM9 infects 25/80 strains from 12/20 C. difficile ribotypes, and CDKM15 infects 20/80 strains from 9/20 ribotypes. Both phages can infect the clinically relevant ribotypes R027 and R001. Phylogenetic analysis based on whole genome sequencing revealed that the phages are genetically distinct from each other but closely related to other long-tailed myoviruses. A comparative genomic analysis revealed key differences in the genes predicted to encode for proteins involved in bacterial infection. Notably, CDKM15 carries a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) array with spacers that are homologous to sequences in the CDKM9 genome and of phages from diverse localities. The findings presented suggest a possible shared evolutionary past for these phages and provides evidence of their widespread dispersal.